August and September have been very busy months! as perhaps you have noticed since there where no new posts on PFL.
The school year started early in our area (I work in Public Education) with its usual changes and conundrums, then I’ve traveled out of state to two gorgeous, dreamy weddings but more on that a little bit later.
Now fall is finally here, in our beautiful Shenandoah Valley, and things seem to have slowed down just a tiny bit. We are having a small reprieve until ALL the fall/winter celebrations kick in and I, personally, truly enjoy the quietness of the season, the chance to light some spiced, fall appropriate candles, bake to one’s heart content, regardless of waistline, and indulge in savory, satisfying soups.
It is a different sort of a routine we settle into as we prepare for the winter months ahead and I find that generally, and strangely enough, the fall and winter seasons seem to be more productive in terms of introspective and reflective work.
There is nothing better, in my opinion, than to finally have the time to work on yourself: in the quietness of a crisp, early morning walk, in between celebrations, on a lazy Sunday morning in bed, when finally, the unattended dreams and hopes, the things that were laid quietly at the back of our minds have a chance to breathe.
Perhaps we have more time in the fall and winter months. In spite of the myriad social engagements, the mad rush for presents and all the chaos and stress that comes with the holiday seasons. We can easily use the “busy-ness” of the season and the shortened daylight as an excuse to curl up with a book, a journal or an inspiring podcast and DO the most important work: that of understanding and bettering ourselves.
In the meantime, I have gathered some of the things that I enjoyed in the past three months and I would like to share them with you. I hope you will find them useful and inspiring!
I’ve been dreaming, and reading, a lot about Italy! it is not unusual for me to start planning for a future trip months, if not years, in advance. Generally, I start discussing future plans with my friends right at the end of a trip.
But Italy… oh, man! I have visited the country on two previous occasions: once during a spring break from University, and the other time when I and one of my best friends loaded our backpacks with snacks and clothes and took advantage of the “under 25″/student discounted InterRail pass and took off around the European continent for about a month and a half.
Italy was the second stop for us, after Hungary, and is one of those countries that you can ALWAYS come back to. I have visited Trieste, Venice, Milan, Florence, Pisa, Viareggio and the surrounding Tuscan area but, I have been wanting, for some time now, to visit Rome, Naples, Sienna, and overall the southern part of the country.
However, until I get to go back, this is what I have been devouring to keep the longing and my itchy feet at bay:
Rick Steves’ documentaries on Italy. All of them. He is probably my favorite travel guide at the moment. I find his travel books easy and fun to read, especially his idea that the guide books are tools meant to be ripped apart, written on, folded and generally, used as needed. It makes sense since carrying a 700+ pages book around when traveling is bound to be cumbersome.
Here is a full list if you are would like to start dreaming, and prepping, for an Italian sojourn as well.
- I have been devouring Anna Fortier‘s historical novels, starting with “Juliet” and then continuing with “The Lost Sisterhood”. The first one is, as you might have imagined, a moving and captivating re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. If you love fast-paced historical novels, well researched and structured, with strong characters and a keep-you-on-your-toes story line, then I think you will really like her novels. Writers in the similar genre are Bernard Cromwell, Tracy Chevalier and Dan Brown.
- Sarah Dunant’s “Sacred Hearts” book stayed with me long after I had finished it. Exquisitely written, like a multifaceted jewel that sparkles in each and every way, the book is set, again, in Renaissance Italy. It captures in precise historical detail a time full of splendor and chaos. But it’s the women’s stories, cloistered, secluded, challenged, told in first person voices that I found so compelling and captivating.
“Tasting Italy: A culinary Journey”, from America’s test kitchen.
This book is huge, and heavy, but all that is easily overlooked due to its stunning photography, the attention given to each Italian region, as well as the mouth-watering recipes that seem easy enough to replicate at home if one is so inclined.
It has been wonderful to take my time with this book! To be able to fully explore a place, it’s nice to know some things about it and this book can absolutely be your study guide not only to Italian food but to its regions and their geographical, cultural, historical and culinary importance as well.
I always feel that when you can’t travel to a place, the easiest and the most delicious way to be transported there is by cooking something specific for that region/country. Food never lies. If you like the food, you will probably like the country also. This book has it all: recipes, maps, history, and dreamy, gorgeous photography.
If you are ever invited to a Pakistani/Indian/Middle Eastern inspired wedding, don’t walk, run! I was recently invited to participate in a Pakistani wedding as a bridesmaid and I absolutely loved it! If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen the stories. The celebrations lasted the whole weekend and I enjoyed every aspect of the wedding, especially the dances that many family members (aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, friends) prepared for the bride and groom.
There was so much color, so much good music, so much good food! and best of all, in my opinion, was the fact that people had a wonderful time in spite of the fact that there was NO ALCOHOL served at the wedding. It was quite refreshing to see. I loved the sense of community and partnership, the joy in coming together and celebrating the newly married couple with so much dancing and fun.
Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, South Carolina is a little gem easily explored when you have a couple of hours to spend in the city. In the last years, I have come to truly relish the smaller museums above the bigger and perhaps better known ones, simply because I find them much more enjoyable to explore at leisure and spend time in. Less people, less fuss, more time to spend looking at the artwork, less stressed curators. Also, they are generally more tolerant towards letting you take pictures (without flash, of course), something I am always keen to do.
I was impressed with the friendliness of the stuff, the small yet well curated exhibitions, and very touched by the “Places of Freedom” display in the Lower Richland StoryLab: a collection of poems, stories, essays and films created by 50 local High School students and centered around the ideas of freedom, race, prejudice and hope in the rural South. I had tears in my eyes reading some of the poems and essays. If you are in the area, I cannot recommend the museum enough for a chance to breathe, relax, and view some beautiful and inspiring artwork.
On the web
Ever since I discovered Fairyland Cottage on YouTube, I have been obsessed with it! I look forward to Sundays so that I can watch another delightful video posted by Niamh, from her lovely cottage in Wicklow, Ireland. I find her channel so inspiring in living a life full of meaning, resourcefulness, simplicity and with a focus on low waste; with care and gentleness for ourselves, the animals and the planet that is our home.
She has many wonderful ideas on health and well-being, natural cleaning (I am waiting to finish my current laundry detergent to give her recipe a go), nutritious, low waste recipes, and DIY self-care items. I especially liked her Zero Waste Christmas – from centerpieces, food to decor, I love her suggestions and ideas!
I have enjoyed this unplugged rendition of Oh Wonder’s “Hallelujah“. They are a London based duo that write, sing and produce their own songs. Their musical genre has been described as alt-pop. I simply find them refreshing and easy to listen. I hope you will like this song as well.
- How to reverse aging
- I really enjoyed reading this article about numerous families around the world having dinner. You can check it out here.
- If everyone ate beans instead of beef…
- If you are still looking for your life’s purpose
- What Japan can teach us about cleanliness
And now, some things to look forward to on PFL in the upcoming weeks!
- I am currently putting together another Christmas Shopping guide, filled with products that support local economies and small businesses. If you would like to check out last year’s guide, you can do so here.
So, make sure to subscribe and I would greatly appreciate it if you could share this post so others can see it too!
Lots of love,
*photo taken by me at Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, South Carolina. August, 2019